Turkey’s Appointment of New Ambassador to Israel in Bid to Fix Ties

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Ufuk Ulutas, a 40-year-old think-tanker, is an expert on Israel and Iran and has written many papers on the Middle East policy. — Twitter photo

ANKARA — Turkey’s decision to appoint a new Ambassador to Israel is in line with its ambition of normalising relations with the Jewish state and represents a bid that would generate geo-strategic benefits for both nations, according to experts.

On December 9, along with a series of other ambassador appointments, Ankara had announced that Ufuk Ulutas, chairman of the Center for Strategic Research at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, had been selected for the critical post, Xinhua news agency reported.

Ulutas, a 40-year-old think-tanker, is an expert on Israel and Iran and has written many papers on the Middle East policy.

This appointment came after Turkey had reportedly initiated a series of secret contacts with Israel in an attempt to mend fences amid years of tension in bilateral relations.

It is worth noting that there has been no ambassador in either country since May 2018, when Turkey asked the Israeli envoy to leave after Washington’s decision to move the US embassy to the disputed holy city of Jerusalem.

It is unclear if Israel will also appoint an ambassador to reciprocate Turkey’s move since no announcement has been made to this date.

“It’s an important first move to fix ties with Israel. Both nations are regional players and restoring a once well-working relationship would be a win-win outcome for them,” Hasim Turker, academic coordinator of the Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies based in Ankara, told Xinhua on Friday.

A reset of bilateral ties with Israel may reduce tensions in Eastern Mediterranean where Turkey has maritime disputes with other nations, Turker explained.

Turkey’s more assertive foreign policy in recent years has marked a deterioration of its ties with countries including Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Greece and some Gulf states.

“Realpolitik is pushing Turkey and Israel to move closer,” said Turker.

“Turkey has not the luxury of being politically and economically alone in this region, so it has to take decisions to end this state of affairs by reaching out to nations with whom it has problems.”

With the upcoming Joe Biden administration in Washington, Turkey may have evaluated that it could see itself further ostracized if it does not mend ties with Israel, a strong ally of the US, the foreign policy analyst added.

For the part of Israel, however, it is busy cultivating its newly-found ties with Muslim states and may not rush to respond to this rapprochement move by Turkey, a former Turkish ambassador told Xinhua on the basis of anonymity.

“Israel may prefer to enhance its ties with Arab nations first and then turn toward Turkey in line with shared regional interests,” he said, adding a possible normalization of ties would help reduce hostilities in the Mediterranean region.

The current Turkish government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a strong advocate of the Palestinian cause.

“We are having issues with people at the (Israeli) top level,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul on Friday

“If there were no issues at the top level, our ties could have been very different,” he said, adding Israel’s policies on Palestine were “unacceptable”.

Turkey and Israel once maintained close relations which began to deteriorate after the Jewish state raided a Turkish-owned aid flotilla bound for Gaza in 2010, killing 10 pro-Palestinian activists on board.

However, trade and tourism have persisted despite poor relations, and Turkey remains Israel’s sixth largest trading partner. — IANS

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